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Idaho wolf board agrees to contract with companies to collar wolves

Gray wolf
U.S. Fish & Wildlife

For the first time, Idaho’s Wolf Depredation Control Board will contract with a non-governmental organization to put radio collars on a handful of wolves.

The board – which pays a federal and a state agency, and now potentially private contractors, to kill wolves – said the collars are primarily to aid with responding to livestock depredations.

“[Wolves] can be hard to find, they can be hard to identify, and in some cases, when you can put a collar at a place and a time with a depredation, it can greatly increase the efficiency and the effectiveness of removing those wolves that are associated with that particular depredation,” said Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Ed Schriever during the Wolf Depredation Control Board’s October meeting.

Board members this week agreed to “piggyback” on contracts already in place through Fish and Game for helicopters and radio collars to capture and track wolves that are potentially killing livestock.

Between June 2019 and June 2020, Wildlife Services, part of the USDA, found about 130 livestock were confirmed, or likely, to have been killed by wolves in Idaho.

Wildlife Services already puts collars on some wolves as part of its work for the Wolf Depredation Control Board.

“Collars can help identify those offending animals,” said Idaho’s Wildlife Services Director Jared Hedelius.

But in the meeting this week, Schriever said Wildlife Services’ collaring is not done in a strategic way, just when the agency is already in the field investigating complaints.

Asking Fish and Game to facilitate contracts on its behalf is new territory for the Control Board, stemming from powers it was granted through SB 1211, which went into effect this summer. That legislation greatly expanded opportunities to hunt and trap wolves in Idaho, and it allows the board to enter into agreements with private contractors.

The Wolf Depredation Control Board also recently agreed to reimburse $200,000 to hunters and trappers who kill wolves through the non-profit Foundation for Wildlife Management. This represents a “cooperative agreement” with the organization, Schriever said, not a contract.

With about $150,000 in excess funds from its annual contract with Wildlife Services, the board could collar around 20-25 wolves.

This year, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is conducting a review to see if gray wolves in the Western U.S. should be relisted under the Endangered Species Act, and earlier this week, several environmental organizations sued to block Idaho’s new wolf trapping rules, saying they put federally-protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx at danger.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen 

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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